Scottish Government ‘secrecy’ over bill for Alex Salmond’s judicial review

The Scottish Government has been accused of “secrecy” and “evasion” after its most senior official refused to say how much contesting a judicial review brought by Alex Salmond over the handling of harassment complaints had cost the public purse.

Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government’s Permanent Secretary, insisted it was “not possible” to quantify the expense of the court case – which the Scottish Government lost when the Court of Session ruled part of the way it dealt with the allegations against the former first minister to be “unlawful”

While the court awarded £512,000 to the former SNP leader, Scottish Labour depute leader Jackie Baillie demanded to know the total cost to the Scottish Government.

Ms Baillie said: “The committee and the general public deserve to know how much taxpayers’ money was frittered away on the judicial review.

“We know that the cost is in the hundreds of thousands but the true extent has not yet been revealed.

“The cost for external legal advice was £118,000 and that was on top of the £512,000 paid to Mr Salmond and his lawyers.

“It is not rocket science for the Permanent Secretary to work out the cost to the Scottish Government of the attendance of a number of civil servants at all the meetings about the judicial review.”

However in a letter to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints – which is probing how the allegations were dealt with – Ms Evans insisted it was “not possible to provide this figure”.

She told the committee: “Dealing with this case was part of the normal range of duties undertaken by a number of different civil servants, including lawyers in the Scottish Government legal directorate.

“Civil servants receive a salary rather than being separately remunerated for dealing with particular matters. In addition, they do not record the proportion of their time that they spend working on particular matters as a matter of course.”

Ms Evans stated: “It is therefore not possible to say how much was paid to lawyers or other civil servants employed by the Scottish Government for dealing with this matter.”

Ms Baillie, a member of the committee, branded that response as “another exercise in evasion”.

She added: “If the committee is to uncover the truth about this sorry affair then the evasion and secrecy must end.”